Salted butter biscuit ice-cream

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Haagen Dasz is known around the world, but in Japan they take things one step further. All year round you will find limited editions or seasonal items. When I visited this month there was a so-called salted butter biscuit ice-cream. I can assure you there was no hesitation this time.

It was love at first bite. The ice-cream was rich and creamy, but more pleasantly tasted exactly like a butter cookie. It is so rare to find a mass produced food item that doesn’t taste like it is laced with chemicals, but the good people of Haagen Dasz managed to pull one out of the bag. There were also some pieces of actual butter cookie mixed throughout for an extra dimension. The only reason I’m not giving this a ten is that there wasn’t really any evident saltiness.

Fear Factor: 0 / Taste Test: 9

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Gold leaf matcha ice-cream

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A new matcha green tea dessert shop opened up the other week at a shopping mall in town and I made a visit to do some research for my blog, or actually I just wanted to eat ice-cream. I case you were unaware, I like ice-cream. Green tea, now that’s still a little unusual to me, but I’ve grown to like it. Actually the matcha ice-cream is not the reason I’m posting this. It’s the big leaf of edible gold that they put on top. I mean, who eats gold.

Eating gold is not something you see every day, but it does happen. Mostly in fine dining desserts, and sometimes in a drink. I’ve had some small pieces of gold before on a truffle ice-cream, but this was a much bigger piece. As I went in for a bit, and my lips touched the leaf of gold, I could actually feel the texture of it, which I didn’t feel before. There is not flavor to it though, it’s purely for decorative reasons. Or decadent reasons if you prefer. The ice-cream itself by the way was perfectly balanced between bitter and sweet. Definitely one of the better green tea desserts I’ve tried.

Fear Factor 0 – Taste Test – 7

Red bean cheesecake

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I feel the same way about red bean desserts as I do about green tea ones. I don’t always like the savory aspect of it, but when it’s done in moderation it can be quite good. Both of these Asian ingredients have really grown on me. When it comes to red beans, I simply don’t think the texture is pleasant.

I visited Xixi Bistro in Shanghai recently to try out their food during restaurant week. We were present with several options for starters and mains, but had no choice over dessert. Therefore I ended up with a slab of red bean cheesecake, along with some ice-cream. In this case the texture was not an issue at all, as the beans had been fully incorporated with the cheese. From the look and texture of it, it could have easily been a strawberry flavored cheesecake. Flavor wise I couldn’t exactly tell it was red bean either. There simply was a sweetness that you don’t find in a basic cheesecake that hasn’t got any additives.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

Vinegar granita

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I don’t often write about food that I cooked myself. I don’t think anybody is waiting for another boring vegetable curry recipe or an egg white omelet. I will leave that to my fellow bloggers who are much more capable at that than I am. Every once and a while though I make something that’s a little more unusual, and would fit well on my blog.

For a special occasion recently I went all out and whipped up a multi-course dinner. All the dishes of that night were inspired by the food and ingredients of my home. Last week I already wrote that in Holland we often eat raw herring with onions, and I decided to make a play on that.

I made a sort of pate of herring, and topped it with crispy rye bread crumbs. To highlight the onion part of the dish, I took some brine of a pickled onion jar I had, and made a granita out of that. The vinegar made it really sharp, but the tang was dulled by the iciness, and it worked really well with the other ingredients.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test: 7

Rose & pistachio Magnum

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A little while back I wrote about a Magnum I tried in Florence with salt, pretzel and chili. Just recently I went back to Florence and revisited the same Magnum shop. I didn’t want to repeat my mistake of adding too much chili, and so I went for something sweeter.

I asked the waiter to coat my Magnum in white chocolate and then sprinkle it with pistachios, rose petals and meringues. Although in Holland we don’t use rose to eat, in many Middle Eastern countries rose and pistachio is a tried and tested combination.

The Magnum ice-cream was as wonderful as ever, and the chocolate beautifully crisp, but I couldn’t really taste the pistachios or the rose. Then what’s the point of creating your own Magnum? Luckily the small dots of meringue did add a nice crunchy texture.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Peaches & wine ice-cream

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At Fatamorgana, a chain of modernist gelato shops in Rome, one of the flavors on offer was a peach and wine combination. It sounded to me like these two would go together very well indeed, and so I didn’t hesitate to point out the beautifully salmon colored concoction to the vendor.

The gelato was so soft and smooth, it had an almost perfect texture. I could tell they had used fresh peaches to make this ice-cream. It was almost as if you were eating straight up peach puree. Harder to detect was the wine. In fact I couldn’t pick it out at all. Perhaps it had simply blended into the peach.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Sea buckthorn sorbet with licorice toffee

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I had written before about a licorice and sea buckthorn chocolate I tried in Finland at the airport. To my surprise I came across another variation of this combination at restaurant Ed Red in Krakow. It was a sea buckthorn sorbet, served with chewy salted licorice toffees and mini meringues.

The sorbet was quite sour, as sea buckthorn is an acidic fruit, but it wasn’t unpleasant. It worked very well together with the salty toffee that h ad a hint of licorice in it. The balance of flavors was almost perfect. My only slight criticism is that I found the meringues lacked crunch.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Black rice & rose ice-cream

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Italy is renowned for its gelato, a softer and smoother form of ice-cream. There are many old shops that have been making ice-cream for decades, but I decided to visit Fatamorgana, a modernist ice-cream parlor with some interesting flavors. The black rice & rose ice-cream definitely intrigued me, but on the picture it’s hidden beneath two other flavors.

The ice-cream was gray in color, due to the black rice, and had a lot of grains of rice running throughout it. The rice was cooked as the Italians love their pasta, al dente. It was therefore a bit tough and chewy, but that did give an interesting texture to the otherwise smooth gelato. I was worried that the rose flavor might be overpowering as is so often the case, but it was only there on the background. The black rice was the real star here.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7

P.S. on the picture the ice-cream is covered by two different flavors of ice-cream which I will wrote about soon.

Tomato granita

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Every day I show pictures of unusual things I eat as a snack or at restaurants, but I actually do most of my eating in the confines of my own home as I love to cook. At one occasion I whipped up a 13-course Italian inspired dinner with wonderful things like truffle, balsamico and pine nuts.

Inspired by the colors of the Italian flag and the flavors of a Caprese salad, I set about creating a savory pre-dessert. I made a layered dish with the bottom layer being a tomato granita, the middle layer a home-made ricotta & parmesan mousse and the top layer a basil oil.

I didn’t know beforehand if this would work, as I never saw anyone making tomato ice. In order to balance out the sweetness, and not turn it into a dessert I mixed in some vinegar with the freshly juiced tomatoes. On its own it was nice, but I wouldn’t eat a whole bowlful. Mixing it with the cheese mousse and basil oil, however, worked like a charm. It was a wonderful combination, and the difference in temperature made for an interesting eating sensation.

Fear Factor 1 / Taste Test – 7

Rose & lychee ice-cream

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A while back I wrote about this amazing little ice-cream parlor in Shanghai called Pree. Here they make ice-cream to order, so it’s always fresh, and they use Swiss Michelin starred chef’s secret recipes. When I was there I not only tried the truffle and Sichuan pepper ice-cream, but also the rose & lychee one.

Rose water is very strong and perfumy and can be overpowering quickly. Lychee also has a perfumy quality, and it’s no wonder the two mix very well. Although it’s a little difficult picking up the lychee notes as the rose is so overpowering. I did like the ice-cream as it was super soft and silky, and although strong, the rose did taste really nice. The addition of crystalized rose pedals made for a nice extra touch as well.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test 8